IPL 2020 saw the Rajasthan Royals (RR) have one of the most contrasting seasons ever. After getting off to a fabulous start, they looked like the front-runners to end up in the playoffs spots.
However, inconsistency and uncertainty in their camp cost them dearly. RR tried a number of different opening pairs and constantly changed their batting order. By the time they finally figured out their strongest playing XI, the Rajasthan Royals were already in a do-or-die situation.
They couldn't win their last league game against the Kolkata Knight Riders to stay alive for the race to the playoffs and surprisingly finished rock-bottom in the points table. Skipper Steve Smith had a poor season by his standards and batting at different positions didn't help his cause either.
The Rajasthan Royals franchise had to make the bold decision to let go of the Australian star ahead of the upcoming season. They have named Sanju Samson as their new captain and believe he is the right man to lead them to their second IPL title.
5 Rajasthan Royals players to watch out for
There is no doubt that the Rajasthan Royals squad has enough talent to go all the way this year. They have numerous players who are genuine match-winners and can single-handedly turn the game on its head.
On that note, let's have a look at five players who can help the Rajasthan Royals win IPL 2021.
#5 Rahul Tewatia
Very few expected Rahul Tewatia to have the kind of impact he had in the IPL 2020 season. He always had the reputation of being a big-hitter who was also a canny leg-spinner. However, he didn't quite get consistent chances until last year.
Tewatia played all 14 games for the Rajasthan Royals last season and scored an impressive 255 runs at a very healthy strike-rate of 139.34. The highlight of his performances last season was against the Kings XI Punjab (now Punjab Kings) where he scored 53 runs off just 31 balls to help RR complete a huge chase.
That memorable innings included him smashing Sheldon Cottrell for five sixes in a row. Tewatia also picked up 10 wickets and was quite economical, conceding just 7.08 runs per over. His performances for the Rajasthan Royals earned Tewatia his maiden India call-up for the T20I series against England.
Although Tewatia didn't get an opportunity on the international stage, he knows that he is in the scheme of things as far as India's T20 World Cup squad is concerned. Another successful IPL season this year might well see him don the India blue for the showpiece event.
As far as Rajasthan Royals are concerned, they will want the Haryana all-rounder to shine with both bat and ball. Tewatia might just be the X factor RR need to win the IPL 2021 title.
#4 Chris Morris
Chris Morris became the most expensive player in the history of IPL auctions when Rajasthan Royals snapped him up for a whopping INR 16.5 Core. While the fee seems rather large, it shows just how high the demand for quality all-rounders is in the shortest format of the game.
Morris has been one of the most consistent all-rounders in T20 leagues around the world and has also performed well in the IPL. He has picked up 80 wickets in 70 games at an economy of just 7.13 and has also scored 551 runs at a brilliant strike-rate of 157.87.
Quite a few eyebrows were raised when Royal Challengers Bangalore released the Proteas all-rounder ahead of the upcoming season. In the absence of Jofra Archer, Morris will be the lead bowler for the Rajasthan Royals and will have a key role while using the long handle too.
It is safe to say that Rajasthan Royals ' chances of making it to the final four and beyond will depend a lot on how Morris performs this season.
#3 Sanju Samson
Very few will argue against the fact that Sanju Samson is one of the most talented batsmen in the country. But it is consistency that separates the great from the good and that is exactly where the newly-appointed Rajasthan Royals skipper was lacking last season.
Samson scored 375 runs in 14 games at an underwhelming average of 28.84. Although he showed flashes of brilliance, there were instances where he threw his wicket away and failed to take his team home. This was one of the main reasons why the Rajasthan Royals failed to qualify for the playoffs.
The 26-year-old got his fair share of chances in the Indian T20I team Down Under. But he failed to deliver and was dropped for the series against England. The IPL 2021 season could well be his last chance to vouch for a place in the Men In Blue's T20 World Cup squad.
Having captained Kerala's domestic team, Samson has an idea of leadership and the Rajasthan Royals will hope that this extra responsibility helps him take his batting to the next level. With Smith gone, Samson could well be the glue that holds the RR batting together.
#2 Jos Buttler
Jos Buttler has grown into one of the most dangerous T20 batsmen in the world. There has always been a debate about where he should bat in the shortest format of the game. He played in the middle-order for the Rajasthan Royals towards the end of last season due to his ability to play spin well.
However, in the recent T20I series against India, Buttler showed just what he is capable of if he bats at the top of the order. Rajasthan Royals are likely to promote Buttler to open once again after seeing his recent exploits.
Buttler scored an incredible 548 runs in 13 games in his first season for the Rajasthan Royals. Back then, he opened in all the games and RR will hope that he has a similar season this time too.
If the Englishman gets going, he can set the IPL stage on fire and may even go on to win the Orange Cap. His belligerent batting could help others play themselves in and post huge totals. Buttler remains one of the biggest hopes for RR in IPL 2021.
#1 Ben Stokes
Who else but Ben Stokes makes it to the top of this list. The England all-rounder has played some heroic knocks across all formats, be it his match-winning hundred against Australia in the 2019 Ashes Test at Headingley or his incredible knock that helped England win the 2019 World Cup.
Stokes played just eight games last season, but turned into an absolute beast for Rajasthan Royals once they decided he was going to open the innings. He also slammed a hundred against the mighty Mumbai Indians and gave RR a real chance to qualify for the playoffs.
With Stokes likely to partner Buttler at the top of the order, the duo can form the most explosive opening combination in IPL 2021. Stokes batted at No.3 in the ODI series against India and absolutely hammered the Indian bowlers in the second game where he scored a whirlwind 99.
This shows what the 29-year-old is capable of if he faces as many deliveries as possible. With his bowling being an added asset, Stokes could well prove to be RR's biggest match-winner this season. It will be intriguing to see whether he can carry his team to their second IPL title.